Small Town News
Second Saturday Curley tours are filled with Ajo history
Tours of the Curley School complex and the Plaza area have been a regular occurrence during Second Saturday events in Ajo through the visitor season. Winter resident Hope Noyes is one of the ISDA volunteers who serve as guides for the popular tours.
"The intention is to share with people Ajo's mining history and how the Plaza, the train depot, and Curley School came to be," said Noyes. "During the tours a brief history is given that covers from the early 1900s to the development of modern Ajo."
Meeting at the Plaza flagpole to begin the free tour is an apt setting to visualize how the early New Cornelia mining company and pioneer John Green way designed and developed the town center, noted Noyes. She said the success of the mining era is revealed in the beauty and majesty of the Plaza and the Curley School, which may be shown in contrast to the closing of the mine in the mid-1980s with the subsequent end of the mining town as it was known.
The former train depot and its renovation, the old theater, the triangle park with the Ajo Memory Project display on its walls, and the former Curley School with the new conference center, classrooms, and commercial kitchen, all have stories to tell. Noyes said she welcomes questions from tour-goers and especially the input from those born and raised in Ajo.
"Their contributions to the tour are invaluable," she said. "Then, when I feel the past history has been satisfied, I move to the current times and the formation of ISDA."
The Curley School complex is usually the main attraction, noted Noyes. She said it is a statement of what is possible, and what ISDA has done to save history and re-purpose the building.
"Everyone is so impressed with the spaciousness and beauty of the apartments, the view from the library, the renovation of the auditorium and the magical reveal when the outdoor stage is viewed from indoors as the big door is raised," Noyes continued. Referring to the conference center she said, "These new spaces leave people astounded and amazed, and there's always a comment such as, 'Who would have guessed this was here?'"
With a return to the flagpole an hour and a half later, Noyes hands out brochures that include information about Ajo's walking tour and one covering ISDA background and projects, and encourages everyone to visit Mural Alley, shop local, and return often.
"People are always very appreciative of the information," said Noyes. "Someone once gave me a $20 tip, which I forwarded on to ISDA!"
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